Alumni Mentor – David Hunt

As part of the Graphic Design - BA (Hons) programme students form their own design agencies, with final year students acting as Creative Directors. Programme Director Zoe Patterson who developed the Design Agency project says: "I was determined to say our students are 100% employable – the Design Agency project allowed us to do this. Students not only leave University with a degree, but 4 years' genuine work experience." Each agency has an established industry expert as a mentor, and alumnus David Hunt, who graduated from Graphic Design – BA (Hons) in 2000 is one of those mentors.

One of his mentees, Nick Merdasi Caceres, says "I tend to be more art based with my work so initially I was sceptical about having a designer as a mentor. However, David is very open minded and he has offered interesting insight on how to run a project without worrying about whether it counts as art or design. I think the main reason he has been such a great mentor is because he is very approachable and willing to talk about his own experiences. As a final year student about to go into the 'real world', that has been invaluable."

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is David Hunt and I'm the Creative Director for the Edinburgh studio Emperor - an established design and communication agency that specialises in corporate and brand comms. So day-to-day I shift between leading and mentoring my team to create the best work they possibly can, as well as creating 'on-the-tools' design work myself.

Why did you want to become a mentor?

Post 2007-08 it was a tough time for graduates, particularly design graduates, to break into the industry as agencies (and their clients) tightened their belts and took less risks than before. So certainly, to my eye, there were less junior designers joining studios - which is a bad thing. Anything we can do to better prepare students for actually working in the industry, make them more attractive to prospective employers, and give them an idea of what they're letting themselves in for is a good thing. As with most things in life, preparation is everything, so [the ECA agency project] is good for them and good for the industry. I also think it's useful for students to get a different perspective on things - perhaps making them ask questions or think about things they might not have otherwise. And I also hope that they get a little reassurance from working with an external professional that they're doing good work.

What have you worked on with students?

This has varied from group to group. Sometimes I've acted as a sounding board and with others my role has more of an industry-based tutor - doing short seminars on things like how agencies work, how they're structured and what they should or could expect from their first job. And, of course, I always set a "live" brief that challenges them in a particular area of interest which I always try to keep as real a possible.

What have you learned from working with students?

Fresh blood is vital to an industry that is fast-paced and constantly changing. So having the opportunity to work with students and seeing how they tackle projects and briefs is always interesting. It sometimes makes you rethink how you do things. One example has been sitting on the opposite side of presentations as the students pitch their responses to live briefs with me acting as client. That has been a real eye-opener for me. It's made me realise how much we expect clients to take in and process as we present creative work. As a result, we do it differently now. 

Is there anything in your experience of mentoring that has made you feel particularly proud?

One of the teams from this year's group - Studio Actually - pitched an incredibly simple but very clever idea in response to the live brief I set them. The project was around refreshing the visual branding of a local social business. I can't reveal the idea here but what impressed me was that the students had had a great business idea as well as exploring the visual aspects. It demonstrated that they'd really understood what the client was all about. And in the field we operate in, I believe that understanding is vital to successful design. So that impressed me.